Healthy eating during pregnancy
Eating a well balanced diet during pregnancy is important for the health and development of your unborn baby. If you’re already in good health and eat a well-balanced diet you won’t need to make too many changes during pregnancy as the body adapts to the additional energy requirements and becomes more efficient with vitamin and mineral absorption. There is a common misunderstanding that pregnant women need to increase their calorific intake or even adopt the “eating for two” philosophy. This is far from the truth and only a small calorie increase (200kcal) is required in the last trimester of pregnancy (Department of Health). To put this into perspective, foods containing approximately 200 calories include two slices of bread or a muesli bar.
Supplements during pregnancy
Supplementing vitamins and minerals during pregnancy is important especially during the first trimester. Vitamins and minerals provide your body with folic acid, iodine and vitamin D. When choosing a supplement choose one that contains at least 500mg of folic acid.
Protein is important for building and repairing damaged tissue. An increase of 6mg per day is required during pregnancy. Protein rich foods include meat, lentils, nuts, tofu, fish, eggs and seeds. Whey protein powders (i.e. Musashi Lean WPI, Musashi Low Carb and Musashi High Protein) are generally safe to use during pregnancy however you must always check with your health care professional before use.
Other supplementation such as sports supplements including pre-workouts and fat burners should be avoided unless directed by your Nutritionist or Doctor.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy
- Soft cheese such as brie, blue cheese and camembert contain bacteria called listeria which can be harmful to the unborn baby.
- Unpasteurised foods i.e. feta cheese
- Raw or uncooked meat, poultry and raw eggs all contain levels of bacteria which can also be harmful to the unborn baby.
- Liver and liver products (pate and liver sausage) contain large amounts of vitamin A which can be toxic to the unborn baby when daily recommendations are exceeded.
- Alcohol can cause physical defects and learning disabilities later on in life.
- Caffeine does not need to be cut out all together but reducing your intake is strongly advised. Caffeine occurs naturally in a range of foods including tea, coffee and chocolate. High levels of caffeine can result in low birth weight as well as possible risks of health problems later on in life.
- Shark, marline and swordfish contain high levels of mercury and can potentially be toxic.
- Deli cold meats and ham
Foods to include during pregnancy
- Fresh fruit and vegetable (washed)
- Starchy carbohydrates: wholemeal bread, breakfast cereal, pasta, rice and potatoes
- Dairy products milk and yogurt
- Beans, seeds, legumes, lentils and tofu
- Freshly cooked meat and fish (oily fish should be limited to 2-3 times a week)
- Vegetables including broccoli, spinach, cabbage, asparagus and beans.
- Avocados contain high levels of folate, B-group vitamins and potassium. ¼ of an avocado (50g) contributes around 15% of the adequate intake of folate for pregnant women.
- Vitamin C should be increased in the third trimester. During the later stages of pregnancy, the baby will take the majority of your vitamin C.
Vitamins and minerals during pregnancy
Folic acid helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects. It is advised to take a supplement of 400mg a day prior to conceiving and during the first two trimesters of pregnancy. Folic acid rich foods include green leafy vegetables (broccoli and spinach), yeast products and citrus fruits (oranges and limes).
Calcium is important for the development of your babies bones and teeth. You need between 700-800mg a day to support these needs – this can be obtained from a large glass of skimmed milk, a pot of fruit yogurt or non-dairy sources: tofu, dried figs and spinach.
Vitamin D helps aid the absorption of calcium in the body, 10µg a day is required during pregnancy. Vitamin D rich foods include oily fish, eggs, butter and cheese.
Iron is important for supplying blood to the baby and nutrition to the placenta. During pregnancy you should undergo regular blood tests; these tests will highlight whether or not you are low in iron. If you are showing signs of mild anaemia the mid-wife or doctor can prescribe an iron supplement. If you are not suffering from anaemia iron supplementation can be toxic and result in constipation. Green leafy vegetables (broccoli and spinach) muesli, beef, strawberries and wholemeal bread are good sources of iron.
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant. During the third trimester of pregnancy the majority of your vitamin C will go towards supporting your growing baby’s immune system. Increase your daily intake by 10mg a day (1 piece of fruit) to help keep yours and your baby’s immune system high.
Gain weight gradually
Weight gain is inevitable during pregnancy; it will vary from one woman to the next with a certain amount depending on your weight, activity level and diet before conceiving. Try not to concentrate on weight gain but on eating plenty of carbohydrates, lots of fruit and vegetables, reasonable amounts of protein and foods containing essential fatty acids (omega-3). Avoid large amounts of processed or fast foods as these contain large amounts of saturated fat, sugar and poor quality carbohydrates. These foods are often referred to as empty calories as they provide the body with little or no nutritional value.
It is not advised to follow a weight loss diet during pregnancy. Sports supplements containing active ingredients such as carnitine, bitter orange, guarana and caffeine should be avoided during pregnancy and breast feeding.
Always check with your healthcare professional before using any supplements while pregnant and breastfeeding.